Master’s junior Delewis Johnson is one of several talented returners who make the Mustangs a national contender. Courtesy of TMU Athletics Department.

TMU insider: Mustang men’s basketball aiming to build on last year’s success

By Mason Nesbitt

For The Signal

The way a smiling Delewis Johnson rocked back and forth as he answered questions inside The MacArthur Center foyer on a recent afternoon embodied the buzz surrounding men’s basketball, a team expected to be one of The Master’s University’s best in decades.

“It’s going to be really exciting this year,” Johnson, a junior wing, said, “with lobs, running, a lot of scoring, defense, steals and everything. It’s going to be a really exciting year.”

More compelling even than last year when the Mustangs went 27-5, won the Golden State Athletic Conference tournament title and advanced to the NAIA’s version of the sweet 16?

“We’re not focusing on what we did last year. It’s a new year,” said Johnson, whose team was picked first in the GSAC preseason coaches poll Saturday. “We’re trying to repeat as GSAC tournament champs and win an actual regular-season title and a national championship this year. That’s the goal.”

It’s a mark the Mustangs are well suited for. Master’s returns three starters: All-American and GSAC Defensive Player of the Year Lawrence Russell, 6-foot-10 center Tim Soares and 6-7 sharpshooter Travis Yenor.

Johnson and point guard Hansel Atencia are both a year older after productive sophomore seasons, and the team added two NCAA Division 1 transfers in the offseason.

The Mustangs open their season at home Thursday night at 8 p.m. against Bethesda University.

For a full season preview, visit GoMustangs.com on Wednesday afternoon.

Young, but ready to compete

The task of replacing two graduated NAIA All-Americans is not a job that will fall to any one player on the Mustang women’s basketball team.

“Everybody needs to step up,” said Mustang Jamilee Iddings, one of two juniors on a squad without a senior.

The Mustangs are coming off a fifth straight trip to the NAIA national tournament, where they’ve advanced to the final 16 in each of the past two years.

A return venture, however, will have to come without All-Americans Bianca Cubello and Megan Lindsley. In TMU’s favor: a backcourt that gained valuable experience last season.

Sophomores Hannah Forrar, Hannah Ostrom, Brooke Bailey and Valencia High graduate Sabrina Thompson each played substantial minutes in what was the program’s fifth consecutive 20-plus-win season.

As far as the frontcourt, freshmen Rebekah Throns, Anika Neuman and Jessica Soares, all 6-1 and above, are expected to make an impact.

Master’s plays California Baptist at home Thursday at 5 p.m.

For a full season preview, visit GoMustangs.com on Wednesday afternoon.

Valencia grad earns honor

Last week, Valencia grad Jasmine Parada built on what’s already been a stellar offensive season, recording the first hat trick of her career Thursday in a 3-3 tie at Menlo College in Atherton.

Monday, she was named the GSAC’s Offensive Player of the Week.

“Couldn’t be more proud of my teammates,” Parada, who’s scored 15 goals in all, said after Thursday’s game. “They gave me such great passes today. So good.”

The Mustangs and Westmont College from Santa Barbara will enter Saturday’s regular-season finale tied for second place and the conference’s final first-round bye in next month’s GSAC tournament.

Game time is 11 a.m. Saturday at TMU.

Mustangs clinch postseason home game

The Mustang men’s soccer team beat William Jessup 2-0 on Saturday to clinch a home game in the GSAC tournament quarterfinals on Nov. 4.

Saugus High grad Trevor Mangan scored in the game’s first 13 seconds, and Benjamin Tembo scored an insurance goal in the 73rd minute.

It was Tembo’s GSAC-best 17th goal of the season. Master’s plays Westmont at home Saturday at 1:30 p.m.

Let’s be frank: Frankian’s fast

Saugus High product Abigail Frankian led the Mustang women’s cross country team to a third-place finish in a loaded NAIA field on Saturday in Rocklin.

Master’s only finished behind NAIA No. 4 College of Idaho and No. 11 Oregon Tech. The Mustangs, ranked eighth, finished ahead of No. 5 Southern Oregon on the strength of Frankian’s fifth-place finish (17 minutes, 43.8 seconds; 5K course).

Skyler Mikesell finished first for the TMU men, taking sixth place on the 8K course in a time of 25:00.8.

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